Gene change in cannibals reveals evolution in action

Posted: April 14, 2010 at 3:36 am

Story Summary: Its a striking and timely example, given the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwins Origin of Species, he says. These prions become malformed and in turn make all healthy prions they encounter malformed as well, in a chain reaction that ultimately destroys brains by turning them into a spongy mush. The change in the gene comes at a position called codon 127. Instead, we found the complete opposite, which is that it was protective. When the kuru epidemic peaked about 100 years back, there were maybe a couple of families who found that they and their children survived while all their neighbours were dying, and so on to todays generation, who still carry the gene, says Mead. None of the 152 victims of kuru had the protective gene, suggesting that it provides almost complete resistance to the disease. But its not yet known whether the variant protects against other prion diseases. The protective variant at codon 129 is called MV, standing for the amino acids methionine and valine. All deaths except one from vCJD have so far been in people with the MM variant, suggesting that they are specially at risk. If you would like to reuse any contentfrom New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndicationdepartment first for permission. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please use the Report link in that comment to report it to us. Fore tribe women in 1957 suffering from kuru….Read the Full Story

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